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Metro Transit Offering Refunds For Northstar Commuter Rail Delays

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After last winter's dismal on-time performance of the Northstar commuter rail line, Metro Transit is trying to win lost customers back.

Starting Thursday, riders can register for a program that guarantees they get to their destinations on time or get a refund.

Last year's harsh winter caused havoc with rail maintenance which compounded the delays caused by heavy freight traffic.

As a result, many commuters found themselves arriving to work late or getting back home late.

So, beginning Thursday, Metro Transit is offering a month-long program, starting Jan. 1, 2015, that will guarantee reliable service or a free ride. Officials said throughout January, commuters who register for the Northstar Service Guarantee program will get their fare refunded if any regularly-scheduled weekday trip arrives to the Big Lake or Target Field stations at least 11 minutes late.

Northstar Commuter rail began service in 2009 with the hopes of growing ridership. But last winter, the rail was dealt a serious setback.

Congested rail traffic and winter breakdowns derailed the train's dependability.

Nate Kvalheim says it was a challenge getting to school on time.

"It got pretty frustrating at times, especially just sitting there delayed on the tracks with nothing to do and you're expecting to be to class on time and you're just not," Kvalheim said.

Average weekday ridership fell by eight percent, dipping to just over 2,500 riders each weekday.

As frustration grew, the legislature held hearings looking for answers into the ongoing delays.

"The primary problem has been the brutal winter. It plays havoc with train operations," a member of the legislation said during one of the meetings.

With track maintenance issues resolved, Metro Transit promises that Northstar's dependability is back.

So starting January first, Metro Transit is making a promise.

"We're so confident that we provide on time service is that either we are within 11 minutes of the scheduled arrival time or you don't pay," Brian Lamb, general manager of Metro Transit, said.

Kvalheim says he wins either way by being on time or a few bucks richer!

"Good to see. I like that, taking care of your customers," Kvalheim said.

To qualify for the Northstar Service Guarantee program, you have to use a Go To card to pay your fare. R

Riders need to enroll on Metro Transit's webpage under Northstar Commuter Rail.

The Northstar Commuter Rail Line provides service between Big Lake and Target Field with stations in Elk River, Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley.

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